Vedanti quits as Akal Takht Jathedar, Gurbachan takes over

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Kurukshetra, Aug 5 (UNI) Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti has quit late last night as Jathedar of the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhism citing 'personel reasons'.

Though the outgoing Jathedar cited 'personel reasons' in his one line resignation letter, but sources close to him said that he was under pressure from the Akali hardliners as well as the moderates to quit as he had failed to provide a proper direction to the Sikh community in the ongoing Sikh-Dera Sacha Sauda conflict.

While the hardliners accused him of 'soft pedaling' on the Dera issue, there were others who felt that he was playing into the hands of fundamentalists owing allegiance to groups opposed to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which controls the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandik Committee (SGPC). In this context Giani Joginder Singh Vidanti's directives to shut down all 'deras' (centres) of the Sacha Sauda in Punjab and the excommunication of Sacha Sauda head Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh did not go down well with the Akali moderate groups who have their eyes on the next Lok Sabha polls.

Sacha Sauda has a sizeable following in the Malwa belt of Punjab and could determine the outcome of at least five Lok Sabha seats. In the last assembly polls, the Dera had backed the Congress which dented the base of the Akalis in the Malwa, their traditional stronghold.

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal who is a sitting MP from Faridkot is expected to be the SAD candidate from the Bathinda seat, where there are sizeable number of Dera supporters.

The resignation of Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti was placed before the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) executive by its general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur at its meeting held here today.

The 15-member executive meeting was chaired by SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar.

The resignation was accepted by the executive with a dissenting notes from two members--Karnail Singh Panjoli and Gurvinder Singh Shampura, who owe their allegiance to Akali groups opposed to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), that controls the SGPC.

The SGPC has appointed Giani Gurbachan Singh, Head Priest of the Golden Temple as the new Jathedar of Akal Takht.

Giani Gurbachan Singh will be installed as the head of the Akal Takht on August 7 in the Golden Temple complex.

(eds here picking up from earlier series).

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